Venture Tenure

Remember our post about universities as incubators? A new non-profit is leveraging the products of those incubators, namely their graduates, for the purpose of job creation and creative activity in cities that struggle to attract new talent. Venture for America finds 50 Fellows, each of which a recent graduate with unusually high motivation and experience, and inserts them into smaller start ups in cities like Detroit, New Orleans, or Providence, Rhode Island. The program is meant to increase these cities’ access to talent in an effort to create new jobs and spur renewed economic activity in some of America’s most down-and-out cities.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nK2hOUDxMPY&w=400&h=301]

Fellows don’t necessarily have experience in entrepreneurship, but each of them already appears entrepreneurial. The question is whether these young graduates can maintain their bright-eyed visions and idealistic energy for two years in cities where few others like them live and with a salary half of what they could be making elsewhere ($32-38K per year).

Venture for America’s goal is to create 100,000 new jobs by 2025. It’s a tall order for 50 Fellows, but if the program is successful, there will be others to take on the task, and increasingly friendly economic environments in their cities of focus. Keep an eye on this one.

-          Terra Curtis

Cities and Innovative Business: Starting the Conversation

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ew_XfxSDjeU&w=440&h=253] This award round, the city of Cape Town is looking for a way to improve connections between the business community and the city. They believe these connections will foster faster, more innovative solutions to challenges there.

In the United States, the House of Representatives recently passed the Entrepreneur Access to Capital Act (EACA), which now moves on to the Senate for approval. The Act relieves restrictions placed on start-ups seeking investor funding. Legislation dating back to the 1930s Depression era had limited the ability of for-profit entrepreneurs to “crowd fund” in order to limit fraud (i.e. a con artist poses as an innovator, receives crowd funding, then disappears). Supporters believe in today’s world, with limitations on single donation amounts, funders will be connected to business owners and a level of trust will exist to protect against fraud. If passed, the law will allow innovators to raise up to $2 million through small donations of up to $10,000 each.

Through deregulation, the bill encourages innovation through small business. Cape Town’s idea, which would produce a platform of communication between city officials and entrepreneurs-to-be, could enhance the effectiveness of EACA. With unemployment remaining high in the US, such a platform could enable the city both to increase employment opportunities and target specific areas of the city or populations in need. Simply informing the community about planned public investments and economic development opportunities could spur the unemployed to start their own business, or expand an existing business to increase jobs.

There are clear benefits to the enhancement of public-private partnership tools. The EACA in the US is a statement of confidence in small businesses. Cape Town’s request is recognition of the potential for small business to innovate. Together, private enterprises bloom, jobs increase, and local challenges are met. Public-private partnerships, specifically local start-up partnerships with cities, are a win-win.

-          ­Terra Curtis

Eight Global Cities Launch Technology Award to Help 40 Million Citizens

Eight global cities from Europe, Asia, Africa and North America join us in a challenge to find innovative solutions to major societal problems by opening competition among international solution-, technology- and service providers. The eight winners of the Living Labs Global Showcase Award will be invited to pilot their solutions in these cities, proving the effectiveness of new solutions and offering a first step for innovative providers to enter new markets. http://www.livinglabs-global.com/flash/awards2011.swf

The participating cities, representing 40 million citizens from Europe, Africa, North America and Asia call for solutions that can solve some of their most pressing challenges:

  • Automation of Urban Services
  • Intelligent Urban Lighting Solutions for Social Interaction & Orientation
  • Venture finance for millions of African entrepreneurs
  • Sustainable Initiative on Intellectual Property Protection
  • Creating the Next Generation of Government
  • Solutions for digitally enabled accessible ecoCities
  • Intelligent Transport Solutions
  • Smart solutions for 10,000 Smart Houses, 16 Green Communities, 1 Eco-City

Oracle Corporation and Asia’s Farglory have been named as corporate partners for the 2011 Living Labs Global Award. Submissions follow the format of the Living Labs Global Showcase and can be submitted for free until the 28th of February 2011. A shortlist of the top 40 Showcases will be presented by the international juries on March 21st 2011. Winners will be announced at the Award Ceremony on May 12th 2011 at the Stockholm Summit on Service Innovation in Cities.

Behind each Category lies the commitment of a city to pilot the winning showcase, with full institutional support to evaluate the impact the solution can have on reaching the community’s objectives.

Having a Car does not mean Having Mobility

Credit to the Associated PressThe historic technological advance in personal transportation has led us from two human-powered feet to four petroleum-powered wheels, with everything from bicycles, horses, and steam-driven trains in between.  And, while at one point the departure from the use of horses in cities was actually a reprieve from poor environmental conditions (imagine tons of horse manure and rotting carcasses inviting flies and rodents in dense inner cities), today the cesspool has returned. From August 14 to August 24, 2010, Beijing suffered one of the worst traffic jams ever.  According to several reports, a 100-km stretch of highway west of Beijing, which had suffered high congestion and slow speeds throughout June and July, finally hit the tipping point when a combination of goods delivery, road construction, and Great Wall tourists all converged at once.

It wasn’t all bad news; some reported remarkable civility among drivers stuck in its grasp.  It also provided a boost to local economies.  Enterprising locals took to the highway on bicycles selling food and water.  From the looks of things, demand was high and supply was low, meaning prices could be nearly anything the seller chose them to be.

So, in the story of advance in transportation, where does this leave us?  There have been several reports of the forthcoming Chinese 3D Fast Bus, a tall vehicle which literally straddles the lane beneath it, effectively creating an upper deck travel lane without the upper deck infrastructure.  As many have suggested, couple the Chinese ability to act fast, produce and pilot prototypes with these dire straights in goods and personal transport, and we (the rest of the world) are left to the leadership of China.

-Terra Curtis